Now that the snow is truly melted and gone here along the southern coast of Maine, there is no denying the amount of work my family must do to transform the land surrounding our little house in the big woods into the lawns and gardens we desire.
First, there are dead trees to cut down. As we moved in when the ground was still covered in snow, we also didn’t realize how wet it was – despite being near the top of a significant hill. Then there are the flower beds overgrown with grass and the old wooden vegetable boxes rotting into the ground.
What I would like to do is pay someone to clear away the years of neglect and damage. To burn the piles of brush and haul off the dead wood. To dig new drainage ditches. And make the yard and gardens flourish again so that I can walk out my front door in bare feet this summer and pick ripe tomatoes and juicy blackberries from the vine.
Practicality, however, requires that my husband pull out his chainsaw and I tug on my gardening gloves to begin the work ourselves. How long will it take? One year? Maybe three? Transformation is rarely quick or easy.
While lying in bed, gazing out the window on a recent morning at my boggy backyard and forest full of tilting birch trees, I realized how much my physical landscape mirrors the spiritual. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” the author of Romans writes, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2 NASB).
The hefty Bible concordance on my desk tells me that “conform” means “to shape in appearance.” The word for “transformed” comes from the same root from which we get “metamorphosis.” This refers to the way an animal changes its habits and form as it develops from an embryo into a mature adult.
Imagine the hard work a creeping caterpillar goes through to grow from a mere grub into a soaring and magnificent butterfly. This is the work that we are invited to engage it, each of us, personally. It is rarely quick or easy and can’t be hired out.
The reward – far greater than a pleasing and productive landscape – is a pleasing and productive life. The good news is that God does not abandon us to work on our own. If we ask, he’ll provide a master gardener to guide and transform our lives – the Holy Spirit. He’ll even supply the tools and nutrients to help us flourish through the daily reading of his word.
This is how we test — or discover — God’s will through every season. It is how we got from creeping to soaring. But transformation isn’t passive. First, we have to climb out of bed, pick up our tools and start digging.